Good to know Places we like: The Malaika Theater

Malaika. That’s how beautiful the Arabic-Swahili word for "angel" sounds like. And for many people in Zurich, the theatre integration is, like the name says, a gift from heaven: Around 40 people from different cultures, generations and religions come here regularly to get to know each other and exchange ideas – namely across all borders and differences. In the form of theatre projects and catering events, they also let others participate in the miracle of integration that they created together. We met Birgit Schmidlin, the director of the theatre, for a talk.

Malaika theatre Download

Valeriana: What is your personal drive that led you to your current position as director of Malaika Theater?

Brigitte: As mentioned, I wanted to help and get involved and support people in need. I  think a lot of it comes back to you, and I really do believe we make a difference. We hear from leaders of the transit centres or other organizations that people who attend our theatre people benefit, learn something, integrate and change into more liberated people. We are like a big family, we have a lot of fun. And it makes me happy to see how many of our Malaika’s can put their problems aside when they are here. They laugh a lot, also about themselves. I am convinced: They find with us, at least for a short time, those liberating moments and moments that are for us humans important and helpful, and thanks to which we, often in our cold and result-oriented world, can function.

Malaika theatre Download

Valeriana: And what do you personally enjoy most about the work?

Brigitte: It’s the whole thing. Accomplishing something together. The absolute highlight isthe performances at Bernhard theatre. The Malaika’s became almost a little reverent in this theatre, with the lighting, the curtains, all the technical stuff, the many chairs and white covered tables for the audience. We usually play in community centres, that was something entirely new. I still remember the joy after a performance, the pride of the Malaika’s, when the Swiss people in the audience and clapped, even gave a standing ovation. s. There is so much enjoyment of life and playing. I find in incredibly touching!

Malaika actor Download

Valeriana: Are the contents of the plays created and presented by the «Malaika’s”. What message do you want the audience to reach, or which feelings should be awakened?

Birgitte: For us, a play is successful when people laugh, but are also touched at the same time. It repeatedly happens that tears flow. Sad and emotional scenes must have their place too. We develop our programs through improvisations. Usually, I give a topic, or it
imposes itself through conversations or memories. All these inputs are collected and set into scenes. Then it's about onto finding the thread and develop a play from all the impressions, memories, experiences and fictions.

Valeriana: What do you think, what qualities through the theatre plays are particularly developed by the «Malaikas»?

Brigitte: Standing in front of a group, speaking loudly and in German - that's what
is the hardest for many. With us, they also learn on be time. Many have never worked with an agenda. They learn these things with us. And they learn what it means, to achieve something together. Sometimes I hear: «I already know my role, I don't have to rehearse any more." But everyone has to be there to play the theatre; otherwise it won’t work.

Valeriana: What can each one of us do to support the integration of refugees?

Brigitte: Certainly, reduce the prejudice. I think if we would all be nice to each other, we had already done a lot. Everyone has small prejudices, but the biggest ones are often found among people who have no contact with refugees or other cultures. I believe that if everyone was able to interact as equals, it would be much easier

Brigitte Schmidlin Download

Would you like to support the Malaika project? Then visit a performance or book the theatre group or the catering directly for your event. 

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